Monday, March 14, 2011

Tox Tip #4: The dose makes the poison

So last Thursday after my XT2 workout, I decided to treat myself to a coffee at the Frontier Cafe on 3rd & Cherry (their oatmeal, apricot, pecan, choc chip cookie is the BEST). I had just ordered my coffee when this random guy walked up behind me and asked...

"Is coffee bad for you?"

"I mean, is it BAD for you. Like, if you have health problems, should I not drink it?"

And since we all like to give unsolicited advice, this was great actually being asked by some random person for advice. And health advice at that! Of course, I am not a medical professional but why would that stop me from responding? So I turned around and smiled at him...

Quick, Visual Assessment: No, he's not homeless, doesn't appear to be crazy, drunk, or high, and he actually seems serious. I look back at the barista and he's not making any motions to respond. Ok, here goes...

"No. Coffee is fine for you," spoken in confident, matter-of-fact tone, "but it's like anything else, man: It's all about moderation."

"What do you mean?"

"Well, it's the dose that makes the poison." I didn't make up this brilliance. It was actually Paracelsus who said something along these lines back in early 1500's. He's one of the fathers of toxicology and I'm a toxicologist, which makes us family and OK for me to quote him.

"But, what do you mean?"

Deep breath. "I mean, a little bit of coffee is probably OK but if you have too much, it's going to be bad for you. Like water for example, you drink a few liters and your body is happy. You drink gallons and gallons and it could kill you. It's all about moderation in what you take in. You can say the same thing about aspirin. About ANYTHING! Everything is a poison, it just depends on the dose, or how much you take in!" 

Isn't toxicology cool? EVERYTHING is a poison! Just think of the possibilities!

"Uh, but I'm not a doctor and if you have serious health issues you should probably check with your doc."

Nice disclaimer, right?

"Oh, OK, cool! I'll have a large latte but with skim milk. That's good, right?"

I saved his life. He could have overdosed on coffee if I hadn't stepped in. Or maybe would have forgone the coffee completely and been so groggy, stepped in front of an on-coming car while crossing the street. You just never know.

Is it just me, or was the whole situation quite funny? I chuckled to myself all the way to my office. How random is that to ask a barista if coffee is bad for you?

Quite random.

And it just goes to show you, my years of post-graduate education can come in handy once in a while outside of work. Once every 10 years or so, anyway.

Moral of the story? Well, I think it is told in my previous two posts. The Paracelsus concept applies to everything. It's all about moderation. Too little and you derive no benefit, too much and you can hurt yourself. The trick is finding that "happy medjum" and learning to "let things go" when the dose you've poured yourself is too great.


Ok, so in FUN news, today is DAY 1 of the CUPCAKE MARATHON!

I actually didn't run and missed my XT1 workout but will be running tomorrow morning, bright and early. At the culmination of this two-week event, I hope to be administering to myself quite a large dose of cupcakes! Anyone else out there running this? I know of:

Keyalus, Blonde Ponytail, Average A, Giraffy, RunnerGirl Training, Elizabeth...


  1. Me! I'm supposed to run! The Cupcake Marathon!

    Totally random with coffee dude.... Batiste-as-physician... That's a title for your busines card...

  2. What a strange man. Lucky he picked you to ask - he got wise advice!

  3. Love the random stranger conversation!

  4. That is a little weird! But it sounds like he asked the right person! Lucky for him you were there.
    And it really is great wisdom. It's all about finding moderation in all aspects of life!

  5. Ahhhh...moderation. That's the ticket!

    What a funny story. Some people say (ask) the strangest things :D

  6. Brilliant! Very funny - thank goodness the man asked you!

  7. That's such a random thing to ask someone in line at a coffee shop :). You had a great response though:)!

  8. I'm doing the Cupcake Marathon as well! I'm a new follower! :)

  9. So we ran together for 13.1 miles and I had no clue you were a toxicologist. guess we never got to careers :) i’m running cupcake too!!

  10. I didn't run on Monday but oh if it had started on Monday. I ran an 11 mile race that turned out to be more like half- marathon distance SMH.

    No worries! I got some running done today and I have a half on tap for Sunday. I will complete 26.2 and I better win some cupcakes! :)

  11. Were you a Philosophy major?!! How do you pull P____ (what's his name) out of your hat?! :)

    Toxicology is cool...and scary! Moderation is such a transferable practice.

    Thanks for reminding me to enter my mileage in the Cupcake Mary!